LHV flew 130 employees to their winter office in Portugal - how are things there?

14. december 2018

In order to offer a change in environment and team telework experience to their employees, LHV flew 130 people to Portugal in autumn.

29 October, Monday. Lisbon, Portugal. LHV winter office. I wake up in the morning because one of my five colleagues with whom I live in the centre of Lisbon is making a ruckus in the kitchen at an early hour, frying eggs and bacon.

This is my second week here in the winter office. Yesterday, more colleagues arrived to the city; they will start their first week today. We have to arrive to the office early, because the two-hour time difference means our early Tallinn meetings begin even earlier here.

New workplace, new people, new routine

I step through the archways of the city’s main market building, the Time Out Market. The market is full of street food stalls, wine shops, restaurants and hipster cafes. The market area smells of fruit, fresh fish and pastries.

I walk through modern glass doors and up the stairs into a private co-working office located at the top of the building. Freelance startuppers and creatives from around the world work in this bright room, filled to the brim with houseplants. They have chosen Lisbon as a stop in their nomadic lifestyle, either for a short or long period of time. Just like me. But I work at a bank, just like my 14 colleagues that should be coming to this office today.

I enter the office cafeteria through the lobby filled with armchairs and ask for a coffee. “Enjoy your coffee, sweetie,” offers an American barista, perhaps a tad too enthusiastically. For the reserved Estonian, this brightens up the sleepy morning mood. At this bar, one can order breakfast, lunch, and after work and on Friday nights, stronger stuff as well.

I proceed to the co-working area, where through the tropical sea of plants, the clatter of MacBook keyboards can be heard, and a score of heads connected to earphones can be seen, all of them focused on work or whispering with desk mates next to them. One’s desk mate may vary every day in this co-working office because most of the work stations are mobile.

Unlike LHV Bank’s Tallinn office, there are no ergonomic chairs here, nor two monitors per desk, nor sliding Vitra desks. Everything is simple, minimalistic, pleasantly robust, there is less silence and more sunlight, but in the air, there’s work energy, dedication, and indescribable happiness, energy and ease.

Every week from the beginning of October to the end of November, that is, during two months, around 130 LHV employees work here in the Second Home Lisboa co-working office in rotation, around 15 people at a time.

Why are we in Lisbon?

For the second year in a row, LHV is enabling its people to work in a sunny and warm place for a few weeks during a cold and sombre time. Last year, our IT and product teams worked in Malaga as part of our pilot project. This year, we have enabled all LHV employees whose duties allow them to work from afar, to do so in the winter office. Of 350 employees, around 250 are able to do telework - half of them used the opportunity this year.

Work can be done anywhere, and one can go to work everywhere. But it needs a certain amount of practise and getting used to. Teleworking requires employees to adapt to a slightly different routine and environment. The challenge of the employer lies in keeping engagement, creating trust, as well as communication. People need variety, but even more than that, they need unforgettable emotions, to see and feel that the employer thinks about, contributes to and values them, and goes out of their comfort zone to provide the best.

Another form of employer branding?

At first glance it might seem like the LHV winter office is just another marketing trick of the employer. Something to talk about at conferences and write about in blogs or the Investeeri magazine to attract new employees that are being reeled in with sweeter and sweeter bonuses on today’s job market. It’s not actually a bad thing if the project fulfils such goals as well.

The LHV winter office project is unique and noteworthy, but above all its intention is to increase the welfare of our employees. Our wish is that our people have something awesome to look forward to after the end of the summer, and that they experience change and get to know colleagues that they may not normally see every day.

Many of us build castles in the sky about what the perfect way and place to work should be, in order to make us feel maximum happiness and motivation. Some may dream of a freelancer’s life somewhere under the sun, others of a corporate position in a high-rise downtown building, and some of a stylish startup work environment somewhere in the creative city. But people get used to anything, a new and interesting environment soon becomes normal, routine arrives one way or the other and the castles in the sky fall apart.

Oftentimes, variety is the key to retaining motivation. LHV offers its employees the opportunity to work in a high-rise downtown building, in a more robust offsite office in Telliskivi, as well as under the sun during the dark and cold. It is true that in the end, we’re still a bank, and that sets some limits on our work environment and flexibility.

But the bank is made by the people whose happiness is essential for us to do our work as well as we do. Companies have to make an effort to create fertile ground for their employees’ budding happiness. There are several ways to do this, but perhaps the most successful of them is to try to outdo last year; exceed your people’s expectations and create ‘Wow!’ moments when employees might not even be expecting them.

The article was written by LHV Head of Employer Branding Ragne Maasel.

The article was published in the LHV magazine Investeeri 4/2018.

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